Have you ever noticed that the story of Lehi’s dream begins with a very innocuous verse?
“And it came to pass that we had gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind.”
It is not an accident that this verse is here. Lehi had spent the preceeding hours gathering seeds of every kind. His mind was occupied with preparation for the archetypal journey into the wilderness and with the affairs of horticulture that would be needed to sustain the group once they arrived in the Promised Land. It was not an accident that the ensuing dream used images such as a wilderness, a field, a tree, fruit–these were already present in Lehi’s thoughts. The Lord uses things we can see or that are immediately available to us to teach gospel truths. In such a manner Jesus used images that were close at hand to teach principles to his followers.
It is my opinion that God speaks to us in the language of symbols. Thoughts or dreams come to our minds in images and stories that we must interpret. The problem is that modern man has lost the skill of interpreting symbols. Searching scriptures is one way that we can become more adept at understanding symbolic communication.
In verse 2, Lehi tells his family, “I have dreamed a dream; or in other words, I have seen a vision.” I think this is Lehi’s way of distinguishing between a dream/spiritual communication and a dream/random firing of synapses. I don’t actually believe all dreams are spiritual communications, but that they can be used as such. And perhaps many more of our dreams are meaningful and symbolic than we realize.
This is one of these instances. Lehi recognizes that his dream is a vision from God, and it causes him to worry about his family. Lehi’s dream begins in a dark and dreary wilderness. He is given a spiritual guide, in the form of a man in a white robe. He follows this guide, but he must still pass through the darkness. After many hours he becomes discouraged and begins to pray. This is reminiscent of the descriptions of many other spiritual manifestations–notably Joseph Smith’s, where he is surrounded by thick darkness, and also Alma’s three days of torment. It seems that passing through darkness is necessary before coming to the light. We see this in passing through the womb before birth, passing through death before arriving in the Spirit World, being immersed in the water at baptism before coming forth in newness of life, and passing through the darkness and trials of earth life before entering into the presence of the Lord.
Lehi prays for the blessing of the tender mercies of the Lord to help him pass through the darkness. Subsequently, he finds himself in a large and spacious field, where he espies a tree whose fruit is desirable to make one happy. Thus far in the scriptural record, mention has been made of the fruit of three trees:
- The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (helps Adam and Eve distinguish between right and wrong)
- The fruit of the tree of life (kept from Adam and his posterity lest they partake and live forever in their sins)
- The fruit of the tree in Lehi’s dream (desirable to make one happy)
Though the tree in Lehi’s dream is referred to in the chapter headings as “the tree of life,” I am not convinced that this tree is the same as the tree in the Garden of Eden, which had fruit that would make one live forever.
Now here’s a question for you, Groupies: Do you think any or all of these trees are actual, physical, tangible trees, or do you think one or all of them are symbolic only?
That takes me up to verse 10. I’ll be back soon for more on chapter 8!